Jun 29

THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA AND ITS HIDDEN CHARMS

Sometimes, the nicest things exist where we least expect and look. Most people dream of exotic vacations on desert islands, but they ignore so many other wonders nearby, that are at least as awesome and maybe even easier to acquire. The Republic of Moldavia is one of the hidden gems of Europe, which many people miss out, but they have no clue about the touristic potential that it holds. We are going to present you a few of the interesting and amazing places that you will find in the Republic of Moldova and are waiting for you to discover them.

The following suggestions serve as eloquent evidence that Moldova is rich in rural landscapes and that anybody across the world would choose as their holiday destination. Starting from the largest cellar in the world and continuing with the fascinating monasteries, touristic locations of Moldova are an invaluable treasure waiting to be discovered.

Soroca Fortress is in the center of Soroca town, about 160 km north of Chisinau. In the Middle Ages the city of Soroca was part of a vast defensive system of Moldova. It was built close to the Nistru River cross path on the site of the old fortifications. In 1499, on the command of Stephen the Great, the city erected a wooden square. Between 1543 and 1546, during the reign of Petru Rares, the city is rebuilt from its foundation entirely in stone, as we see it today. The fortress is a medieval monument in Moldova, which was kept in its original form, as it was designed by craftsmen and the entrance in the bastion there is a small military church.

In the same area, you can visit the “Candle of Gratitude” Monument (located high on a rock above the bank of Nistru River), which represents one of the most important creations in the history of Moldova, and you can also visit the beautiful Cosăuţi Monastery.

The Orhei Museum Complex, situated in a rocky gorge of Raut River, over 200 meters deep, is one of the most famous areas rich in archeological vestiges and remains of different civilizations established between the area of Nistru and Prut. It is one of two places in the world where ancient ruins dating millennia ago have been preserved is such a good shape. Stone caverns confirm the presence of the first human settlements that date back a few hundred thousand years. The rocky hill hosts a strong fortification of the Dacians, dating between the 5th and 3rd century b.C. The surface of the archeological complex is extraordinarily small for the large number of natural and architectural monuments directly descended from history and legend.

Here, tourists can visit the Farmyard Museum (19th century), the landscape reserve “Trebujeni” and many other beautiful sight seeings.

Milestii Mici Cellar entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2007 after having been validated as having the world’s longest and highest storage capacity. Nowadays, it is an underground wine city with a total length of galleries of over 200 kilometers, with streets named after famous wines and along which there are placed oak barrels and tanks with a total capacity of 65 million liters, underground waterfalls, fountains and tasting rooms.

A special place within the Cellar is represented by the “Milestii Mici” Golden Collection, where you will find about 2 million bottles of wines of the finest quality. You can also visit the “Estate of Maniuc Bei” and the “Milestii Mici” wine warehouses.

In the center of Moldova, in a picturesque area with green and deep forests there is one of the oldest monasteries of Moldova – Capriana, founded in 1429. It was built by various rulers, including Stephen the Great, and has long served as the residence of the Metropolitan of Moldova. Being closed and devastated during the post-war years, it reopened again in 1989, becoming a symbol of national revival. At Capriana you can find the largest monastic library in Moldova, with precious royal gifts.

Nearby you can visit many beautiful old churches, such as “Assumption” (built in 1545), “Saint Nicholas” (1840), “St. George” (1903), “Capriana-Scoreni” landscape reserve, the oak of Stephen the Great; the oldest reserve of Moldova – “Codri”, Răciula Monastery or Cojusna Winery.

Photo source

Picture 1: orhei.net; Picture 2: amadeus.extralan.ro; Picture 3: calatorie.md; Picture 4: moodle.md; Picture 5: publika.md; Picture 6: zoom.mediafax.ro; Picture 7: calatorie.md
May 16

Orheiul Vechi, a rustic and picturesque area in Moldova

orheiul_vechi_trebujeni_moldova_5-1024x680 travel,mdSixty kilometers away from Chisinau stretches the modern city of Orhei. Only 20 km away from the modern city you can easily plan your trip to an important archaeological and spiritual complex, Orheiul Vechi (which means Old Orhei).

This complex is dating from back in the days, from Dacians tribes, going through different invasions (by Mongols and Tatars) until the time of Stefan cel Mare in the 15th century. Located on the shore of the Raut River, this complex is a treasure for those seeking to feel the atmosphere from ancient times. There is a whole range of ruins, fortifications, caves and monasteries ready to be discovered and rediscovered.

The bridge to Butuceni it is the sign you are approaching the village of Trebujeni. This is the place where you should begin your visit, from the Orheiul Vechi Exhibition Centre. The English-language map you will find here to buy it will help a lot. The small exhibition displays ancient objects. The Centre has six rooms and a welcoming restaurant. To feel the local taste you can go to Agro Pensiunea Butuceni. Their rooms are decorated in the Moldavian traditional style. Old and modern are related here at the pension, because the owners added a pool as well. In the restaurant you can enjoy very good home cooked meals, wines from local vineyards and interesting lessons on how to prepare by yourself cornmeal polenta, known as mamaliga by the locals.

Make sure to have at least half a day to cover everything that is to be seen. The Orthodox Cave Monastery is probably the most important place that you want to visit. It has been carved inside of a cliff, close to the river. The two signs that show you are in the right place are the bell tower and a cross rose on top of the rocks. In the 13th century monks decided to build this monastery, but no one inhabited until late in the 18th century. From 1996 a few monks decided to go back to this spiritual place and they dedicated their time to its restoration. A brick archway is marking the entrance in the cave.

In 1905, an Orthodox church has been built and can be visited while you are there. It is interesting that the access in the church has been forbidden by the Soviets in 1944. Until 1996 the church remained abandoned.

Other important things to see there are a defense wall dating from the 15th century, the ethnographic museum and the caves from the valley.

The easiest way to reach the Cave Monastery is through the village of Butuceni.

Photo source

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Oct 28

Serpeni Headbridge Memorial

The tourist attraction tackled in today’s article is situated in the Republic of Moldova, on the right bank of Nistru River.

The memorial was erected in order to bring homage to those fallen in the 1944 Iasi-Chisinau battle which was carried on with the goal of liberating the nation from under the fascist rule. All the participants in the battle have been martyred for making the ultimate sacrifice for the better of the majority and thus the memorial eulogizes their commitment to their cause for which they have paid with their own lives.

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The 22nd of August, 2004, marks the day in which the Serpeni Memorial has opened its doors to the public. The inauguration was actually part of a more grand celebration carried on with the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the independence of Moldova.

The construction work for the memorial was initiated while the Soviet Union was still in power and consisted of only a few basic elements. It should be mentioned that the memorial was constructed on the exact land on which the aforementioned battle was unleashed, an area which did not spread over more than 8 kilometers.

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More than 11 thousands soldiers have perished while defending their beliefs and hopes for independence and the name of each of them has been immortalized on granite boards which are spread all around the altar erected in the their memory. The commemorative monument also comprises a bell tower which rises high above picturesque landscapes, and which stands as evidence for the rebirth of Moldova. The memorial is completed by the ‘eternal flame’ which burns indefinitely for the fallen ones, lighting their path, and by two mighty towers which are connected at the top by a cross that watches over them.

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The memorial is situated only 40 km away from the capital city of Moldova, Chisinau, so if you are in this neighborhood, do not miss on the occasion of visiting the Serpeni Memorial, where you will find yourself in the presence of heroes.

Oct 22

Hancu Monastery (Manastirea Hancu)

Hancu Monastery is a nunnery situated in the Republic of Moldova. Founded in the second half of the 17th century (1678) by a Moldovan boyar, the house of worship initially bore the name of the guardian of Moldova, Holy St. Parascheva. But in time, the monastery started to go by the name of Hancu Monastery, after its founder, Mihalcea Hancu.

However, the monastic ensemble, meaning both the monastery and the adjacent buildings, was completely destroyed during the Tartar invasion, when the construction was set on fire. In these circumstances the nuns saw themselves obligated to leave behind their home in order to seek refuge. It was not until 1784 that new hermitages were constructed and the nuns were able to return to this place, where a wooden church was erected so as to allow the continuation of the religious service in the region.

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The monastery had carried on its peaceful monastic life for two centuries, but the 20th century had brought about troublesome times. Some of the monks were evicted, being sent to other monasteries while others were taken into custody and sent to prison in Braila. In this timeframe, the treasures of the monastery were taken over Prut River. The denouement was obvious: the monastery was closed – the unfortunate event occurred in September, 1949.

 

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The 20th century marks a grim period in the life of the monastic ensemble. The place was used for anything else except for the purpose for which it was intended. A hospice for pulmonary disease was constructed here and the summer church was transformed into an entertainment club for students. But the most damaging effects were distinguished in the graveyard. The tombs were dug up and all the valuable possessions encountered within the graves were stolen. Even more so, the crosses themselves were taken, thus the tombs remaining anonymous.

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The doors of the monastery stood closed for 43 years, but these reopened in 1992 when the monastery began its activity for the second time around. It was in this same year that the monastic life of the monastery was organized and the Hancu Monastery was properly established.

One of the most important hieromonks that have lived here was Dorotei, the one who had initiated an elaborate project in order to beautify and enhance the monastic ensemble. Besides the monastery, the hieromonk gave order for a building to be constructed where the members of the friary were to dwell. This edifice was equipped with 3 porches and included 12 rooms. The complex contained 6 separated homes – each containing 4 rooms.

 

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The additional buildings were hangars, carpentry workshops, a blacksmith’s shop as well as a distillery.  The monastery was encircled by means of 5 fountains. It was in this period that the monastery expanded greatly and became the most famous monastery located in Moldova.

Aug 28

The National Museum of Archeology and History (Muzeul National de Arheologie si Istorie)

The National Museum of Archeology and History is located in the historical centre of the Moldovan capital-city, Chisinau and encompases a variety of items which are representative for specific historical periods. The exhibitions consist of more that 300.000 objects and the items which are part of the national heritage of Moldova exceed half of this number.

Among the important vestiges which form the collections located at the National Museum of Archeology and History, there is something which is worth mentioning, more precisely a symbolic sculpture which reigns over the courtyard of the museum: a replica of the “Capitoline Wolf” statue located in Rome – the sculpture which was inspired from the legend that explained the foundation of Rome.

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This institution is among the most important cultural edifices on the entire territory of the Republic of Moldova. The museum was founded near the end of 1983, under the order issued by the Ministry of Culture. According to this directive, the previous institution, which was based on the collections encountered at the Museum of Military Glory, was bound to change its profile, in the sense that the assortment of items on display was undergoing a process of expansion, enriching the collection of the museum.

Up until 2006, this cultural institution bore the name of the National Museum of History, but as it underwent several changes, more precisely having incorporated the Museum of Archeology, the name was changed to the National Museum of Archeology and History so as to reflect the structure of the new improved museum and the types of collections encountered here.

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The museum is actually constantly changing in the sense that the collections are enriched by means of donations, acquisitions, scientific research and archeological diggings. In fact, there were two noteworthy periods in the “life and growth” of the museum due to the fact that the museum was enhanced by the large collections of items which were reassigned to this specific institution when the former museums which contained them had closed their doors. It was precisely this aspect that contributed extensively to the improvement of the National Museum of Archeology and History, but also to the diversity of the items exhibited.

The objects found within the museum are divided based on their origin and the timeframe in which they were used. The museum consists of various sections, each dedicated to a specific historical period, which taken as a whole retrace the evolution of Moldova, tracking the historical events of the past, up to the present. The need for such an institution is obvious: it allows individuals to gain knowledge about their history, having insight into their ancestors’ way of life, customs and traditions, as well as becoming aware of the events which had led to the way in which contemporary society presents itself.

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The first permanent exhibition was established in 1991 and it was entitled “Pages of Centuries-old History of Moldova” in which the events and artifacts partaining to the historical period that stretched from the ancient times until the middle of the 20th century were presented to the public. The collection occupied three rooms and consisted of 900 pieces.

After a couple of year however the exhibition was reorganized so as to fill the entire first floor of the museum. The items of the collection were chronologically arranged in such a way so as to allure the visitor to attentivelly gaze at the items and retrace the history of Moldova from the Paleolithic Age until the 1950s.

http://enjoymoldova.org

The National Museum of Archeology and History also offers a variety of temporary exhibitions which are set up with the help of various individuals and organizations. The museum is interested in bringing awareness of the immense value that the collections inside the institution have and thus organizes various events which are meant to pinpoint this precise aspect. The majority of these provisional exhibits however are put together in collaboration with different museums or cultural institutions. These are either held at the premises of the museum or abroad, thus making the national museum and its collections known throughout the world.

Aug 06

The National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History (Muzeul de Etnografie si Istorie Naturala)

The oldest museum to be found on the territory of the Republic of Moldova is the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History. The museum is situated in the capital city of the country, in Chisinau and dates from 1889.

The founder of the institution is Baron A. Stuart who had put the basis for a museum of agriculture. Initially, the museum was held in a different building, but it moved to the site where it is still found today in 1905, when the specific edifice was built under the supervision of V Tsigankov (the architect to design the building). Even the name had suffered several alterations throughout time, but the purpose for which it was designed had not changed. The museum is meant to study the natural environment and the culture of the Republic of Moldova.

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The museum has gained recognition beyond the borders of the country, being known as an important educational center of Bessarabia.

The collections found within the museum are divided in two categories. On the one hand, there are the collections which comprise elements of flora and fauna, both the ones which form the natural environment at present and the ones which used to exist in the past. Thus visitors can have a look at the way in which the environment had been transformed in time – a process occurring due to the climactic changes as well as to the human intervention: deforestation, inter-species breeding, etc. The evolution of nature is historically tracked since the Achaean era up until the present day.

http://www.icommoldova.org

 

The other section is dedicated strictly to the culture of Bessarabia. This means that the items encountered here reflect the way of life of the civilizations which had dwelt in this area, including their traditions, habits and attire. In this particular section, visitors will find various types of objects which were used either in household activities or in different works. The items on display will present the exact evolution of the peoples which had lived here in different periods of time. Tourists are particularly interested in the traditional wear and the elements of interior decoration which used to adorn the houses in past times.

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The collections encountered here pertain to several domains: paleontology, geology, zoology, archeology, ethnography, and numismatics. Visitors will also indulge themselves with a tour in the botanical garden of the museum which has been created a year after the institution relocated in the new building (in 1906), making it the first botanical garden to exist on this territory.

The National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History is also renowned for the unique pieces it possesses. Among these there is the skeleton of an enormous dinothere, an extinct elephant-like mammal that lived in the Pliocene Epoch, which was discovered in 1966. In order to comprehend the importance and value of the collections found at the museum, you should know that particular items have traveled the world, being exhibited in Europe, America, Asia and Africa as the Moldovan cultural heritage.

http://www.icommoldova.org/

 

Visiting hours:

The museum is opened for visitations on a daily basis (with the exception of Mondays) from 10:00 until 18:00. As it usually is with institutions, the museum is closed during national holidays. In order to gain access within the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History one must cover a fee (5 Moldovan Lei). Photographing and video-recording the museum is permitted as long as an additional fee is covered.

Jul 26

The Scientific Reservation ‘Codri’ (Rezervatia Stiintifica “Codrii”)

In the technological era, when machines seem to have taken hold of the earth, it is quite difficult to find a “little piece of heaven,” a place where you can be surrounded by nature on all sides. Because wild regions are scares nowadays, people have found a way to protect the environment – by declaring a certain area a natural or scientific reservation.

So is the case with ‘Codri’ Reservation, the 5177 ha which have been declared protected under the law in 1971. The area safeguards about 1000 species of plants, 43 species of mammals, 145 species of birds, 7 species of reptiles as well as different types of amphibians and insects. You can accurately name the reservation a “museum of nature” because there are so many species of plant life and wildlife here.

http://www.informator.md

 

The reservation is located between the Prut and Nistru Rivers and incorporates a part of the forests and terrains situated in the Codri area. Due to its geographical position and thus its climatic conditions, the region has always been covered by trees.

The hydrological network is quite diversified consisting of three rivers which flow into Nistru: Botna, Cogalnic and Bac, whose total length reaches 27 km. The last time the area was examined from a hydrological perspective, the researchers had reached the conclusion that there are 15 brooks, 56 basins and numerous springs which traverse the reservation.

The species of plants located here are subjected to in-depth analysis and classification. This is meant both as a way to keep track of the multitude of species found in the region, but also to protect them accurately.

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The relief is quite diversified in the sense that there are areas covered completely by forests, but there are also marshes – in the lower regions.

The flora located here consists of species which originated in three phyto-geographic regions: the Mediterranean region, Central Europe and Euro-Asian. Among the multitude of examples of plant life, there are 60 species of rare plants in this scientific reservation.

Why is it relevant to know just how many types of fauna and flora are encountered here? Because, as it has been mentioned previously, there are but a few locations where one can actually feel as being in the middle of nature. This reservation conveys a paradisiacal feel to the one who enters this world. It is virtually impossible to remained unmoved by the sight you are presented with when visiting ‘Codri’ Natural Reservation.

Jul 10

Saharna Monastery (Manastirea Saharna)

Saharna Monastery is located in the eastern part of the Republic of Moldova, on the right bank of the river Nistru. The actual name of the monastery is the “Holy Trinity” from Saharna, but it is widely referred to solely as Saharna Monastery.

The religious complex is without a doubt one of the most important places of pilgrimage on the Moldovan territory. The reason for this is that the monastery preserves the earthly remains of St. Macarie, the only relics encountered in Moldova.

http://www.crestinortodox.ro

 

There is also a legend which revolves around this place: that the Mother of Christ had been in this territory, but more so, that there is evidence of her passing by as she left her print on one of the rocks.  Whether or not there is some truth behind this is unknown, but there is one thing certain: the legend has conveyed even more significance to the monastery.

The natural reservation of Saharna is situated in a well- known area which has evolved into a highly appreciated tourist attraction. The scenery is breathtaking: the rocky strait of Saharna twists and turns over several cascades, thresholds and rocky cliffs, not to mention that the entire area is woodland.

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In the vicinity of the Saharna Monastery lies an important archeological site which contains valuable objects from the Iron Age (10th– 8th century BPE) and a Geto-Dacic keep (4th-3rd century BPE), which is one of the most well preserved fortresses located on the Moldovan territory.

The history of the monastery is tightly connected to the history of the Republic of Moldova, naturally. The monastic ensemble experienced a flourishing period in the 50s but this came to an end in the 60s when the Soviet authorities closed the monastery. In turn, the edifice was used as a psychiatric hospital and the consequence of this was that all the riches of the monastery were steadily but surely spent.

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It took 30 years to reopen the monastery. By this time, the edifices were severely damaged so restoration works were underway.

The Saharna Monastery is situated at  8 km from Rezina and at 120 km from the capital city of the Republic of Moldova, Chisinau. The monastic ensemble together with the natural reservation surrounding it extend over 670 hectars and are considered monuments, protected by the state.

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The history of the monastery begins with a small church carved in rock which was located in the area. In the 18th century (1776), Vartolomeu Ciungul had arrived in this region from Russia with a couple of brothers and monks and had found the hermitage empty. Thus they decided to settle there and repair both the church and the hermitages.
In 1863, a new church was added to the monastic complex, the winter church, and a new building of chambers for the monks.

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Since its founding, in 1776, and until 1919, 24 different abbots have been in charge of the monastery.
The rupestral church had been restored between 1991 and 1994. It consisted of 4 hermitages dug in rock, right near the church, which had been restored three years after the church (in 1997). In close proximity of the church tourists can find a narrow cave where, according to legend, hieromonk Vartolomeu, the founder of the church, had retreated in order to lead an ascetic life.

As it has been mentioned, Saharna Monastery has become an emblem of the Republic of Moldova. And this can be easy noticed since the monastic complex is represented on the back of the 50 MDL coin.

Jun 26

Soroca Fortress (Cetatea Soroca)

The Soroca Fortress has been erected by Stephan the Great in the 15th century. The Moldavian keep, which had been built on the site of an ancient Genovese fortress, named Alciona, is situated right near Nistru River. But the edifice that stands erect in front of us at present is actually the work of Petru Rares, the son of Stephan the Great, who had rebuilt the fortress and had endowed it with walls made out of stone.

There are several historical documents which mention that a fortress was constructed on the bank of the river Nistru, and that wood or stone was the main material used in the construction work. The belief is that Soroca was erected out of wood and mud in the first decades of the 15th century, but the first documentary evidence of the edifice under discussion is available from the 12th of July 1499.

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Nistru cannot be crossed in too many points along its streamline as the banks are quite steep, but where this was possible there was also the risk of Tartar invasion and pillage of the Moldavian establishments. If the crossing points at Hotin and Tighina were safeguarded by the garrisons encountered in the fortresses which bore the same names as the towns in which they were located, Soroca was left defenseless. It was not until the time of Stephan the Great that measures of protection are finally taken – when the construction work of a wooden fortification began.

But due to the fact that the materials used initially suffered a lot under the weight of time, the edifice was damaged severely. The new fortress built by Petru Rares consists of stone walls and measures 15 to 20 m. Tourists will be pleased to hear that the fortress maintains the appearance given to it by Petru Rares so they will have the opportunity to gaze on an unique Moldavian medieval fortress which stands out due to its architectural structure.

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It is a circular construction with a diameter of 37,5 m, 4 circular towers and one rectangular tower. Measuring  15 m in height and 8 m in width. The structure is extremely tight in the sense that the towers are equally distanced from one another. Underneath the rectangular tower lies the entrance door.

Upon entering the fortress one can notice that the fort is structered on three levels. The 1st level used to consist of several stores and tunnels. The 2nd level consisted of living grounds. Access to the watchtowers was done through the second floor, but this also served as a defense mechanism for the stores located beneath, whereas the last floor was used mainly by guards in order to get access to the towers.

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The main tower, the rectangular one, also consisted of two parts: the section beneath was actually meant to provide access within the fortress (as it has been mentioned previously), whereas the superior part was transformed into a small chapel decarated with fresco works.

The fortress and the chapel have become emblems of Soroca. Many couples decide to get married here not solely because of the historical background of the location but also because it brings something new to the traditional marriage ceremony.

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After the mighty fortress was completed, Soroca began to grow in importance and it developed an administrative and commercial function due to the customs point established here. Likewise, the fortress was responsible for the development of the urban nucleus of Soroca which was meant to function as the commercial center of Moldavia.

The Soroca Fortress, whose historical and geographical personality was already clearly determined by the end of the 15th century, resulted from the need to establish a political frontier in the middle of the Nistru River, on the Naslavcea-Vadu Rascu portion, from the need to establish a commercial route which would be protected by the Soroca Fortress and to develop the economy in Soroca which would sustain the population in this region.

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The structure and architectural design were perfectly selected in the sense that no enemy fire could bring down the edifice. So the fortress fulfilled the purpose for which it was designed: providing defense.